At least 20 elephants from Zimbabwe have arrived in China after being flown there from the capital, Harare.
They were sold for around $40,000 (£26,000) each after their controversial capture last year.
The sale has raised money to help run the Hwange National Park and also slows the growth of the elephant herd, Zimbabwean officials say.
There are concerns elsewhere in Africa that poaching may lead to elephants becoming endangered.
The capture of the animals was criticised by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) last year.
In a statement it said that the elephants would be “sentenced to a life of inhuman treatment”.
Campaigners have said the younger elephants were forcibly separated from their mothers
ZCTF chairman Johnny Rodrigues added that the transported elephants were between two-and-a-half and five years old – not old enough to be weaned.
The elephants are due to be taken to the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, southern China, which is home to 20,000 rare animals, according to its website.
Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere defended the sale to Bloomberg news agency, saying that “there is nothing irregular with this export, this is part of elephant conservation”.
There have been concerns that Zimbabwe’s growing elephant population was threatening the vegetation in the Hwange National Park and damaging the crops of nearby human settlements.
The authorities have said that exporting the animals is a better than a cull.
But the ZCTF disputes the official figures for the elephant population and has called for a scientific census before any more elephants are transported.